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Royal Australian Air Force - Late Cold War

By the early 1980s, due to the significance of the island chain to Australia's north-west, the structure of the RAAF featured highly capable platforms and strategic surveillance equipment. The F-111 bomber, C-130 transport and P-3 maritime patrol aircraft were already in service, with the F/A-18 fighter and Boeing 707 long-range transport and air-to-air refuellers under consideration, along with the Jindalee over-the-horizon (long-range) radar, airborne early warning and control aircraft, and additional air bases across the continent's north. By May 1985, the first of 75 F/A-18 Hornets also arrived in Australia. The new fighter aircraft replaced the Mirage IIIs, which had been in service since 1964.

In December 1987 the first contingent of RAAF personnel and their families arrived at Tindal, 300 kilometres south of Darwin. RAAF Base Tindal was the first new operational air base to be built in Australia since World War II and was placed squarely within the ADFs designated 'area of operations'. Home to No. 75 Squadron and the second contingent of F/A-18 Hornets, Tindal was officially opened on 31 March 1989 by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq on 2 August 1990 paved the way for the formation of a multinational force comprising 40,000 troops from thirty countries to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions and drive back Iraqi forces. Over 1800 ADF personnel were deployed in the Gulf War from August 1990 to September 1991. The force comprised units from the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force. Operations were named Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Desert Farewell. No deaths occurred among Australian personnel although Coalition forces lost 166 personnel.

In addition, Army and Air Force provided personnel to Operation Habitat, the delivery of humanitarian aid to Kurds living in the UN-declared exclusion zone in northern Iraq. Air Force support also included the evacuation of Australian nationals. Boeing 707 tanker aircraft from No. 33 Squadron also flew to the Gulf during March-May 1998 to support Allied air operations in the region.

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